The Florida Marlins approached the Orioles last week with a six-player trade proposal that a source in the B&O; warehouse said has been "put on hold."
Looking for late-inning bullpen help, the Marlins are trying to obtain reliever Jorge Julio in a deal that would include Florida right-hander A.J. Burnett, a free agent after this season. The Marlins also want either Daniel Cabrera or Hayden Penn and an outfielder, with Larry Bigbie a likely subject in talks.
"It's a starting point," the source said.
The Marlins want to include outfielder Juan Encarnacion in any deal, shedding his $4.5 million salary, and they've also proposed Double-A outfielder Eric Reed, a speedster who's hitting .257 in 65 games, with 22 stolen bases in 27 attempts with the Carolina Mudcats.
The Orioles' front office could be divided on Burnett's value. One official believes he's not a legitimate No. 1 starter, but the Orioles tried to obtain him last winter. He would be a significant upgrade for a rotation that didn't produce a quality start on the seven-game road trip that concluded Sunday.
The Orioles are more interested in San Francisco right-hander Jason Schmidt, and the source said he probably could be obtained for a package similar to the one the Marlins are seeking. But Giants general manager Brian Sabean told Bay Area reporters Wednesday that he doesn't envision trading Schmidt, whose contract includes a $10.5 million option for 2006.
"I think we always take a view of what's going to be best for the club," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We talk to a lot of people about where we are, what's going on, how long guys are going to be out. I don't think we are going to do anything knee-jerk. I don't think that's a smart thing to do."
The Marlins contacted the Orioles at a time when they were struggling, having gone 24 innings without scoring. But they won four straight before losing last night, with Burnett, 28, throwing a two-hit shutout against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday, and a source in Florida said they informed another American League team that Burnett no longer was available.
Burnett's fastball reached 98 mph Sunday in a game attended by Orioles scout Bruce Kison, and he mixed in more curveballs and changeups than usual. He's 5-5 with a 3.14 ERA this season, and 42-43 for his career. He appeared in only four games in 2003 before reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, thus missing the World Series.
General manager Larry Beinfest told a Florida radio station yesterday that he's open to making trades to improve his team, which is five games out of first place, but he didn't address specifics.
The Orioles would need to sign Burnett, who's making $2.5 million, to a contract extension, and he's told associates in Florida that he'd have interest in playing in Baltimore. His wife, Karen, is from Maryland. But a source close to Burnett said the pitcher is intrigued with the idea of testing the free-agent market, with an eye toward Tim Hudson's four-year, $47 million contract.
"I'm always on the block, man," he told reporters yesterday. "I haven't heard anything. My wife actually heard it from her mom today, from some Internet [story]. I have no idea what's going on. I'm a Fish now and hopefully I can stay here."
Beattie said it is still possible the club will place Melvin Mora, who has missed six straight games with a strained right hamstring, on the disabled list.
In other injury news, starting pitcher Erik Bedard threw off flat ground yesterday and reported no pain in his left knee.
Fellow starting pitcher Bruce Chen, who exited in the fifth inning of Saturday's game in Atlanta with a sprained left big toe, will throw today. He was clearly favoring his foot walking around the clubhouse.
Reliever Jason Grimsley (elbow surgery) pitched a scoreless inning Sunday for Double-A Bowie in his first rehabilitation appearance. Also, catcher Javy Lopez, out since May 24, will see a hand specialist today.
Around the horn
Manager Lee Mazzilli will get a chance to discuss his two-game suspension with major league officials July 7. ... Former McDonogh pitcher Brandon Erbe, the Orioles' third-round pick in this month's draft, signed and worked out before last night's game. He is scheduled to report to Rookie-level Bluefield today.